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Posts Tagged ‘Black Psychologists’

contributed by Lizette R. Barton.

Like countless others I considered Dr. Joseph White a mentor and a friend and I was heartbroken to learn of his sudden passing in November. Joe White changed my life. He truly, honestly changed the course of my life and I will be forever grateful to him. I know that many of us have Joe White stories – stories of friendship, mentorship, inspiration, and education. I’d like to take this opportunity to share mine.

In 2003 I was a third year undergraduate psychology major at The University of Akron and I was enrolled in the History of Psychology course. David Baker, now my colleague but at the time just my professor for the course, invited Joe White to speak to our class.

joe white 2007

Joe White addressing Dave Baker’s History of Psychology class in 2007

He was insightful and his lecture was thought provoking. I think we can all agree that he was an incredible public speaker who could totally command an audience. At one point in his talk he mentioned the book Even the Rat was White by Robert Guthrie. I headed to the library directly after class and got that book and read it that night. I know this sounds totally cliche but as a white girl who grew up in a very rural, very white community Joe’s lecture and that book were a watershed moment. I quickly learned there is no “the history” but rather “a history” and oftentimes people are silenced and omitted from “the” history so many of us learn about in school.

Dr. Baker encouraged me to contact Dr. White and we quickly struck up a friendship. He wrote me letters of recommendation for graduate school and when I didn’t get in and was heartbroken he helped me reevaluate and realize that I had a real passion for history and archives so maybe not getting into a psychology graduate program wasn’t the worst thing on earth.

As a student assistant in the archives, and later a part-time staff member, I was assigned to process the Robert V. Guthrie manuscript papers and Joe offered to help fund my travel to Hollywood, CA in 2005 in order to see Dr. Guthrie recognized as an elder at the National Multicultural Conference and Summit. My favorite memory from the trip was sharing Manhattans and laughs seated between Dr. Guthrie and Dr. White at the hotel bar. They were impressed I could hold my alcohol “for a country girl” and I wore that as a badge of honor.

We stayed in touch for years and  would make a point to get together for drinks or dinner during his many trips to Akron for UA’s annual Black Male Summit.

By 2007 I was a full-time staff member at the Cummings Center. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity for free UA classes and enrolled in Dr. Zach Williams’ History of Hip Hop class. The topic of the “generational gap” came up again and again in course lectures and readings and when it came time to complete a final project I knew I had to talk to Joe.

The following audio clip was part of my final project for the class. I recorded my interview with Joe and then put some of his words to music. It’s “not safe for work” in that it contains explicit language but Joe’s words are powerful and I am just as inspired by them now as I was then.

Rest easy, Joe. And keep the faith.

 

 

 

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